Orlando Olivera (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter

On the heels of a ten-game losing streak, the Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate has fallen 4.5 games out of first place. Outfielder Orlando Olivera is trying to aid a struggling offense.

The Palm Beach Cardinals’ offensive struggles intensified, as the club scored just nine runs while losing all seven games this past week, all at Roger Dean Stadium. As the team came into the period with a three-game losing streak, the skid is now ten games. With an overall 14-19 record, the Cards have fallen into the division cellar, 4.5 games out of first place.

The report covers the period of Wednesday, May 4 through Tuesday, May 10. I attended the Thursday through Saturday contests.

Wednesday, May 4: Fort Myers Miracle 3 at Palm Beach 0

Palm Beach was swept, dropping the final game of their three-game home set against Fort Myers (MIN). Left-hander Jacob Evans did his part to try to break the skid, pitching eight innings, yielding three runs, two earned. Kyle Grana finished with a scoreless ninth.

The Cardinals managed just five hits, all singles. Catcher Steve Bean went 1-for-2 with a walk. Mikey Reynolds stole his fifth base.

Thursday, May 5: Jupiter 3 at Palm Beach 1

The Beach Birds’ offense managed just four hits in the loss to Jupiter (MIA) in the Fins and Feathers series’ opener at Roger Dean Stadium.

Two of the four were fourth-inning singles by Danny Diekroeger and Blake Drake that were sandwiched around a base-on-balls to Casey Grayson.  Drake’s hit drove in Diekroeger, cutting the Hammerheads’ lead to 3-1.

Matt Pearce had a quality start, yet was charged with his first loss in three decisions, after permitting three runs, two earned, on six hits and a walk in seven innings. Rowan Wick and Kevin Herget each tossed a scoreless frame to keep the Cards within striking distance.

Friday, May 6: Jupiter 3, Palm Beach 1

The teams flipped home-and-away roles, but the result was identical to Thursday. Starter Ian McKinney was cruising through three, and escaped a couple of walks in the fourth. It unraveled in the fifth after two more free passes and a single loaded the bases with no out. After having thrown 74 pitches, 37 strikes and 37 balls, McKinney, whose fastball was in the 87-89 mph range, was pulled with Palm Beach holding onto a slim 1-0 lead.

Pedro Echemendia allowed an RBI single to tie the game, but otherwise escaped the jam.

The score remained deadlocked tied until reliever Silfredo Garcia gave up a long ball in the seventh. It was the eventual deciding run. The Hammerheads scored an insurance run, unearned, in the eighth against Kyle Grana.

Palm Beach loaded the bases in the ninth, but no runners made hit home. The Cards stranded 10.

Saturday, May 7: Jupiter 6 at Palm Beach 0

The scuffling Cardinals offense was no-hit by a combination of four Jupiter pitchers to drop the third of the three-game set. Palm Beach had five base runners; three reached on walks, and two were hit by pitches. 

Starter Jack Flaherty absorbed his third loss of the season. The right-hander, featuring a 92-93 mph fastball and a curveball in the 80-83 range, pitched six innings, giving up four runs on six hits.  Cody Schumacher added two scoreless frames before struggling Michael Heesch yielded the final two Jupiter runs in the ninth.

Sunday, May 8: Charlotte 7 at Palm Beach 5 (13)

Palm Beach struck first with three first-inning tallies but that lead was gone by the fourth as starter Austin Gomber surrendered four runs to visiting Charlotte (TB).  Gomber hurled six innings in total, yielding six hits and three free passes.

Pedro Echemendia was touched for a run in the seventh, and Rowan Wick followed with a scoreless eighth. Kevin Herget settled in for four scoreless innings as the game went deep into extras. In the 13th, Silfredo Garcia and Kyle Grana combined to allow the go-ahead scores. The offense could not answer in the bottom of the frame.

Danny Diekroeger went 2-for-6 with two runs scored and Casey Grayson singled twice in five at bats with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. Orlando Olivera went 2-for-3 with a walk and two driven in. 

Monday, May 9: Charlotte 5 at Palm Beach 2

Starter Blake McKnight went 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs, two earned, while issuing four walks to just two strikeouts. In his Beach Birds debut, Chandler Hawkins was hit for two runs in 2 1/3 innings. Cody Schumacher added a scoreless ninth.

The offense was led by center fielder Blake Drake, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Right fielder Orlando Olivera had two hits in four at-bats, including his first home run of the season, plating Drake. The fourth-inning blast temporarily brought Palm Beach to within one run, but that would be as close as they could get.

Tuesday, May 10: Charlotte 6 at Palm Beach 2

The Cardinals’ losing skid reached 10 games as the visitors held the Beach Birds to five hits.

Palm Beach had just two baserunners until the seventh, when they had two reach. Same in the eighth, but none of the four scored. Down by six runs, the Cards finally plated a pair in the ninth on an error and a grounded into double play by Oscar Mercado, but it was too little, too late.

Blake Drake and Orlando Olivera doubled with Andrew Brodbeck picking up an RBI. Olivera and Casey Grayson scored.

Starter Jacob Evans had a rough day, yielding five runs on 10 hits and two walks against just one strikeout in five innings. Reliever Michael Heesch was scored upon in his sixth straight appearance, yielding one run over three innings.

Standings

The FSL South Division’s first-half title remains up for grabs, but the Cardinals are becoming less of a factor. The 14-19 Cardinals have fallen into last place, 4.5 games behind co-leaders Charlotte and Fort Myers. In the tight six-team division, the other three teams are within 2 1/2 games of a share of first place.

The Cardinals have a decent road record at 8-7, but have been owned at home, where they are just 6-12.

Who’s Hot

There aren’t many to discuss. For example, just one Cardinal batted above .250 for the week.

The return of Orlando Olivera from Peoria has been refreshing for the offense. Last week, the outfielder went 7-for-19 (.368), including two doubles and a home run. The 23-year-old plated four and has gradually moved up in the lineup to fifth.

http://www.scout.com/player/200723-orlando-olivera?s=321

Closer Kevin Herget’s fantastic season continues. The righty added five more scoreless innings to increase his season total to 23. Herget has 21 K’s and just one free pass issued.

http://www.scout.com/player/179989-kevin-herget?s=321

Reliever Cody Schumacher also had a clean week, with three holds, one for each of his scoreless innings.

http://www.scout.com/player/169883-rowan-wick?s=321

Hard-throwing Rowan Wick allowed three baserunners, but put up two scoreless innings from the bullpen. That lowered his season ERA to 1.46. The right-hander has 17 strikeouts against four walks in 12 1/3 frames.

Who’s Not

With a 10-game losing streak, there is plenty of ice to go around, as you might imagine, starting with the up-the-middle players.

Shortstop Oscar Mercado had two singles in 24 at-bats for the week (.083), one walk and was 0-for-2 in stolen base attempts. With a season average of .186 and OBP of .273, the 21-year-old has been dropped from the top to the bottom third of the batting order.

The other Palm Beach ignitor, second baseman Darren Seferina, is even colder, going 1-for-19 (.053) with two free passes last week. The left-handed hitter fanned six times for a 29 percent strikeout rate as his batting average for the season fell to .205.

Steve Bean isn’t helping the offense much. In fact, he is struggling to even make contact. Last week, the catcher struck out in half of his at-bats, eight of 16. Bean managed one hit and one walk for a .063 average and .118 OBP. Through 17 games this season, he is still looking for his first extra-base hit, with a line of .167/.246/.167/.413.

Outfielder Vaughn Bryan is going through a transition period for sure. In his first 20 at-bats as a Beach Bird, the Peoria arrival has just four hits and no walks to go with six strikeouts (30 percent K rate). Bryan’s batting line is as symmetric as it is low - .150/.150/.200/.350.

As noted above, reliever Michael Heesch has allowed runs in six consecutive outings. For the week, the left-hander was charged with three runs in four innings, which actually improved his season ERA to 10.24. So there’s that.

Ideally, headline starters Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber would pitch well as stoppers to compensate for the struggling offense, but neither had a strong outing this week. Both allowed four runs in six innings for ERAs at 6.00 for the period. Through six starts each on the season, Flaherty is at 6.08, with Gomber at 3.12.

Team Stats

The Cardinals are down to seventh from sixth of 12 FSL teams with their 3.46 ERA. (It was 3.33 through the prior week.) The pitching staff is tied for ninth in strikeouts (down from eighth) and have also moved the wrong way with the fifth-most walks issued from a tie for seventh last week.

On the offensive side, Palm Beach is second to last in runs scored, just one tally out of the cellar, down from seventh last week. The club is tied for last in batting average (at just .215), down from ninth at .228 last time, and last in OPS at .597, also a decline from eighth the prior week. The Cards have 32 steals in 46 attempts, fourth-most in the circuit, but were just 2-of-4 for the week.

Power Outage Worsens

Amazingly, through 33 games, the Cards have just three home runs as a team, compared to the league leader with 26. Olivera had the lone blast this past week. Accordingly, Palm Beach’s team slugging percentage of .277 is still not only dead last in the FSL, but is down a substantial 15 points from the prior week.

Transactions

It was a very busy period on the transaction front again, with four pairs of moves for the second consecutive week.

5/5: C Jesse Jenner from Palm Beach to Memphis

5/5: C Chris Rivera from State College (extended spring training) to Palm Beach

An injury to Memphis catcher Michael Ohlman led to fill-in catcher extraordinaire Jenner receiving the call. The seventh-rounder becomes the first member of the Cardinals 2015 draft class to reach Triple-A, though his stay may be relatively short in duration.

The 22-year-old jumped over Peoria, opening the season at Palm Beach. A few days later, due to the Brayan Pena injury, Jenner moved up to Springfield, where he remained until two weeks ago, when he was returned to Palm Beach.

http://www.scout.com/player/200633-jesse-jenner?s=321

Even with all his moves, Jenner had just 14 plate appearances in total this season before joining Memphis, with a very quiet line of .154/.214/.154/.368.

It is not a surprise that Rivera, 21, is back with the Beach Birds, as he previously filled in from April 10 through April 25.

http://www.scout.com/player/178965-chris-rivera?s=321

In eight Florida State League contests prior to his return, Rivera had a line of .280/.357/.280/.637. The right-handed hitter spent last season at Johnson City. With Palm Beach, Rivera will back up Steve Bean.

5/5: OF Nick Thompson from Palm Beach to Springfield

5/5: OF Vaughn Bryan from Peoria to Palm Beach

Another series of moves began with outfielder Carlos Peguero being placed on Memphis’ disabled list. Though Thompson did not hit well for the Beach Birds (.171/.267/.237/.504) in his 22-game Florida State League introduction, the 23-year-old is a smart player and good defender.

http://www.scout.com/player/191528-nick-thompson?s=321

With 2016 being his third season at Class-A Peoria, Bryan finally receives his first shot at A-Advanced after missing much of last season due to injury. The 22-year-old was not lighting it up with Peoria, with a line of .206/.286/.286/.571 in 63 at-bats over 19 games.

http://www.scout.com/player/179979-vaughn-bryan?s=321

5/7: IF Mikey Reynolds retired

5/7: IF Andrew Brodbeck from State College (extended spring training) to Palm Beach

Mikey Reynolds’ professional baseball career apparently ended on Friday when the 25-year-old made a decision to retire. The contract of the 25-year-old had been purchased by the Cardinals from an independent club last September.

http://www.scout.com/player/203131-mikey-reynolds?s=321

As a Cardinal, the infielder posted a meager line of .179/.253/.231/.484 over 21 games. Two weeks ago, Reynolds served as a brief three-game injury fill-in at Double-A Springfield, with those results included in the listed numbers. 

Brodbeck, 23, is back after appearing in two games with Palm Beach to open the season. The left-handed hitter had been moved up from the Gulf Coast League in 2015 in part due to a rash of injuries on the Palm Beach infield - before he went on the DL himself on April 11. Brodbeck was activated from Palm Beach’s DL last Tuesday and moved to extended spring training, only to return on Saturday.

http://www.scout.com/player/200636-andrew-brodbeck?s=321

5/9: RHR Silfredo Garcia to Palm Beach seven-day disabled list

5/9: LHR Chandler Hawkins from Peoria to Palm Beach

Garcia, 24, had been a non-roster invitee to big-league spring training camp, but upon reporting, a problem that precluded him from pitching was discovered. Back at Palm Beach in 2016 for a third straight season, the former starter had moved to relief last year. Over 11 appearances totaling 14 1/3 innings, the ground ball machine has a 3.07 ERA to go with 12 strikeouts and four walks.

http://www.scout.com/player/140318-silfredo-garcia?s=321

Hawkins, a 23-year-old Memphis native, opened 2016 in the Peoria bullpen, where he logged a 2.38 ERA, 14 strikeouts and just three walks in 11 1/3 innings over eight games.

http://www.scout.com/player/200707-chandler-hawkins?s=321

Injuries

Garcia makes the eighth player on the Palm Beach disabled list and the fourth pitcher, joining Will Anderson, Luke Weaver and Josh Wirsu. Injured position players are infielders Allen Staton, Mason Katz and Juan Herrera plus outfielder Michael Pritchard.

Up Next

Perhaps getting back on the road will help the Cardinals return to their winning ways. Having just faced Charlotte (TB) for three at home, Palm Beach heads there for a short two-game set. On Friday, the Cards will be back at Roger Dean for seven straight games – three vs. Bradenton (PIT) and four versus Lakeland (DET).

Rest off the field is not going to happen any time soon, as Palm Beach’s next day off is not scheduled for almost three weeks, on May 30th.

Bonus for TCN Members

In an 11-minute interview, Palm Beach manager Oliver Marmol discusses the key members of his club.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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